Love in between football matches

Love in between football matches

Emrah Güler
Love in between football matches This week’s new release, the romantic comedy “El Değmemiş Aşk” (Untouched Love), is playing for two teams, hoping to appeal to both the female and the male audience during the week-long holiday. There is a love triangle for the women and the leading character as a football fan for the men. Women’s take on love and relationships will likely please the female audience, while innuendos for sex are set to appeal to men.

While “El Değmemiş Aşk” is director Umut Kırca’s debut feature, Turkish audience will recognize the name. Kırca is the son of comedian, film and stage actors Levent Kırca and Oya Başar, with a delightful cameo from Başar, the surviving parent. The film features occasional sketch comedy, inspired by the comedy of the director’s parents.

The film follows a familiar figure, a favorite male character in mainstream Turkish cinema, the man-child, a man in his late 20s, early 30s who refuses to grow up and take responsibility. Here, that character is Zafer, played by Emre Karayel. Zafer’s first and foremost passion is, as the movie points out repeatedly, not sex, but football.

In between football matches, he is married off by his family to his childhood friend Feryal (Ceren Moray). Feryal is smitten by Zafer, but her feelings are not reciprocated. Zafer, in fact, is in a relationship with a colleague of his wife, Duygu (Begüm Kütük Yaşaroğlu). So begins the sexual chase where Feryal tries every possible thing to have sex with her husband, with Zafer running out of excuses to avoid marital sex.

“El Değmemiş Aşk” reminds one of another Turkish film, 2014’s “Aşk Oyunu” (Game of Love), directed by Umut Yüksel. Both films are romantic comedies, both take football as a metaphor for the mating game, both take football fandom as a major backdrop throughout the films and both rely on the stereotypes of the cunning woman and the naïve man in relationships.

The protagonist in “El Değmemiş Aşk” is a die-hard fan of Fenerbahçe, making the film more appealing to the fans of the team, similar to how “Aşk Oyunu” mostly played to Galatasaray fans. The 2014 film begins with the famous voice of veteran sports commentator Orhan Ayhan, along with news clippings taking us to Galatasaray’s championship in May 2012. 

‘Life is like football’

For the true fans of Galatasaray, there is the 1965 classic “Taçsız Kral” (Uncrowned King) of the late Atıf Yılmaz. The film is a biopic of Metin Oktay, a Turkish football player and one of the most successful goal scorers. Adapted from an interview the football player did with the writer Safa Önal, Oktay plays himself in the film.

Released during the height of Oktay’s popularity, “Taçsız Kral” includes footage from football matches (far too many for non-fans of football), along with storylines of Oktay’s popularity among women, starring three popular actresses of the time, Ajda Pekkan, Gönül Yazar and Ayten Gökçer. 

Oktay’s name is given to another character in 2010’s “Camcı / Adı Aşk Bu Eziyetin” (Glassmaker / Love is the Name of this Torment), directed by Suat Oktay Şenocak. The Bursaspor fan in the movie is named after the legendary football player. In the film, Metin finds himself in some shady money transfer linked to football matches. 

“Life is not 90 minutes” was the tagline of “Camcı / Adı Aşk Bu Eziyetin,” echoing the sentiments of another football classic with the tagline, “Life is like football.” Serdar Akar’s cult hit “Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaşmalar” (Offside) told the trials and tribulations of an amateur football team in the 1980s. Memorable cameos from legendary football players Rıdvan Dilmen, Tanju Çolak and Feyyaz Uçar turned the film into a delight for football fans.

As football films go, don’t miss director and writer Volga Sorgu’s debut feature from 2011, “Kaledeki Yalnızlık” (Loneliness in the Goal). The film touches on as diverse themes and subjects as grief, dysfunctional family relations, class differences, changing urban life, poverty, fraud and even the lives of third generation migrant Turks in Germany. Football as a metaphor nearly brushed all of these themes, the major one being the heavy burden of being a goalkeeper in team play.